Friday, October 15, 2010

Viva la elección!

As elsewhere in our fair country, Miami is focused on the upcoming November elections.

My phone rings four to five times each evenings with the dire news that Sink (D) has wasted MILLIONS in some bureacratic miscue and that Scott (R) ran a company that had numerous fraud citations from the government.

Pretty normal stuff for a governor's race. Inspires confidence in the quality of our democratic process. My absentee ballot confronts me each time I go into the kitchen, but I cannot motivate myself to mark either of the candidates.

In a unique, more Miami-flavored incident, one passionate candidate allegedly chased down a truck carrying his opponent's negative campaign literature, ramming his car into the truck in order to stop delivery (umm...did you think this out? The literature was not destroyed and now your opponent can print more pamphlets about your stupidity!). In an interesting aside, he did this on the "crazy freeway", focus of much humor and frustration in Miami. Here, as the 100 mph Mercedes drivers weave through the 35 mph clunker cars, driving takes on new excitement and edginess. Live where I do, and you truly can't avoid this excellent test of reflexes and sanity.

I had two charming little boys come to my door and inquire if I would put a sign in my yard for their dad.

"Who is your Dad?"

"Jim ________," replied child one. He had a gap from his missing front tooth. They were wearing dress pants and ties. The cute, guilt factor was overwhelming.

"What is he running for?"

"County commissioner," replied child two, with a sweet lisp.

Be strong, I told myself. "If your dad wants to talk to me, or give me information about his views, I'd be glad to consider it. BUT I can't put a sign in my yard when I don't know anything about him." (except that he has cute kids and has no compunction in using them as electioneering WEAPONS OF MASS APPEAL).

Maybe this speaks to his fearless, clever nature?


Kids look confused, but shuffle away to the waiting mini-van - from which no woman or man has emerged to monitor our interaction. I get a little agitated, and consider stomping up to the van and berating the driver...but, as they open the door, I can see it's an elderly Latino woman. I immediately go inside, write down the candidate's name, and swear not to vote for him.

Gees, leave the kids and granny or nanny out of this!

Some local politicians DO know how to get my vote. Just this week, Barry and I received separate puffy envelope packages containing...


Who wouldn't sell his vote for a pen and a stamp?

I'm always on the hunt for a good Bic basic black pen...and now we have TWO!

And, if I have any hesitation voting for someone who would WASTE thousands of dollars mailing me a PEN AND A STAMP (the nice man was "helping" me fill out/mail my ballot), I am an unappreciative Miami resident who knows NOTHING of the local political game.

Who do you think I am? I'm not your typical CHEAP vote! If you want MY vote, pony up! Hint: Gift certificates make great, neutral, untraceable bribes.

On the other hand, they were cool stamps. I got Kathryn Hepburn and Barry got Cary Grant. I'm saving them for a special occasion mailing.

I also received a small American flag in a mailing tube. I pulled out the flag, but, oops, never pulled out the flyer. Sorry, whomever came up with THAT brilliant campaign strategy.

I will vote. So should you. Do you need a pen?

Monday, October 4, 2010

I'm on a Boat!

In the previous post, I gave the Midwestern in Miami Tip of the Day as:

Make friends with a (generous) boat owner!

Today's Tip of the Day follows an enjoyable Saturday made possible by our generous boat-owning friend:


Second, ancillary tip:

One application of sunscreen does not permanent protection make.

Third, ancillary tip:

SPORT sunscreen does not mean you can engage in water sports and not re-apply. I'm not sure what SPORT means. Perhaps it's a marketing lure for manly men and athletic women: "Hey, sunscreen is cool, dude! Wear some!" I thought it meant the sunscreen was extra-sticky. Hmmm...maybe I'm not as bright as I think!

After applying Sport 40 sunscreen, We headed out Saturday morning with Brant for a day of snorkling. The sky was blue. The air was clear with a tinge of Miami autumn (defined as the temperature stays below 90 degrees and the humidity is low, 65%-ish). The ocean was smooth as glass. Brant knows all the local coral mounds scattered throughout the ocean near Miami.

If you've never snorkeled, I hope you get an opportunity. I know some people can't travel far - but if you take a cruise and a snorkel activity is offered, it is worth the expense. When we went to Hawaii with the kids (all on Barry's accrued travel miles and hotel points - he stayed up until 1 a.m. 354 days before the event to be first in line for the frequent flyer seats to Kauai - what a man!), we rented snorkel equipment the first day and carried it from beach to beach. IT IS AMAZING! What looks like plain, dark water is...

FULL OF FISH! Red fish, blue fish, yellow fish, green fish! I'm not Dr.-Suessing you here for nothing! The coral is beautiful as well, all different shapes and colors. In Kauai, we went to a beach famous for sea turtle grazings and swam next to HUGE sea turtles eating seaweed!

Snorkeling is easy - you don't have to be a good swimmer. The water is typically shallow, though you cannot put your feet down near the coral, because it is delicate and easily damaged. You float and flip the flippers and breathe through the mouthpiece attached to the snorkel. That's the only anxiety-producing moment - I feel like I can't breathe because my nose is blocked. I actively think, "Relax, breathe slowly, through the mouth." After a few minutes, I'm used to it and it's a go!

On this trip, we saw Parrot fish and small grouper, and lots of other fish we couldn't identify. Brant had one of those plastic fish identifier sheets, but not for "pretty" fish...for "EATING" fish. HE HAD A SPEAR GUN! Barry and I are "la, la, la, la...ohhh...pretty fish!" and Brant is (play theme from JAWS in your head) stalking dinner.

We're in and out of the water maybe four or five times, floating on our stomachs, the sun reflecting off the water, and I don't think once, "Hey, my back's up on top, getting FRIED!" NOPE, I'm just enjoying the cool waters, fresh breezes and thinking I'm UNDER water when I am ON the water.

Barry noticed my back about switch number four...he reapplied sunscreen, but too late.

According to the national Skin Cancer Foundation, "A person's risk for melanoma--the most serious form of skin cancer--doubles if he or she has had five or more sunburns." I don't know about you, but considering that when I grew up the 'best" skin protection was Coppertone Sun Lotion (SPF maybe TWO), I've had at least five sunburns, and I'm worried it's double that, including Saturday's fiasco.

Barry picked up aloe lotion at CVS, and while I found it cooling, refreshing, and massively sticky, I don't think it made much of a difference to the burn's intensity. I still can't wear a bra (my apologies for the unpleasant visual).

Doesn't matter. I was thrilled by our day on the Atlantic. No pain, no gain!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Martha, Martha, Martha

I'm SURE you noticed that I haven't posted in over a week.

I KNOW you are becoming obsessed, wondering, "When will Ann post again? What is GOING ON??"

Ahhhh...ok...maybe not.

This did happen to a blogger I follow - Jennsylvania - where Jen Lancaster shares funny life moments. You might recognize her name - she, unlike ME, is a published author. Jen hadn't posted in a couple of weeks, and received an avalanche of email demanding an entry.

ME? I got squat from the five of you that read my posts.

Still, you may now be thinking, "Hey, she's right! She HASN'T posted in a while! I have had an extra five minutes every couple days to think happy thoughts!"

You are WELCOME, by the way.


I decided to have the neighborhood friends over for a landlubber boat picnic. BIG TIP for Midwesterners in Miami - make friends with someone who owns a boat! Patty (who was in Seattle for the stem cell transplant) and her husband Brant kindly include us in many boat picnics. We meet up at the marina with other friends with boats, speed out to the quiet of Elliott Key, and swim, ski, and share goodies until the sun is close to setting. LOVELY!

Patty cannot go on the boat - the ride to Elliott Key is even in calm seas quite choppy. With compromised blood counts, it's not recommended. SO, I said, let's do it without the boats and the ocean!

I love Martha Stewart. With every glue-gunning, pastry rolling, faux finishing bone of my body, I love this woman. I get Martha Stewart Living, and in contrast to popular assumption, the projects are practical, well-explained, and GORGEOUS. I was watching her TV show, and got a couple new menu ideas. (Full Disclosure: I also love the Barefoot Contessa, Michael Chiarello, and Bobby Flay). For my birthday, Barry gave me a food processor. I'm totally tooled up for the occasion.

Here's the thing - in order to "effortlessly" host a party, one must EFFORTFULLY knock oneself out for two days prior to the event.

First - house prep. I keep a decently clean house, but having guests who will be all over the kitchen and bathrooms means special due diligence.

Clean the bathrooms. Notice the grout is grody in the kitchen and Chris' bathroom. Chris uses the "cabana bath" - bathroom with an outdoor access so swimmers can come in without tracking water all over the tile. Guests will use this bathroom. I knock myself out with bleach applications and scrubbing. Back out and am eye level with blinds on the cabana door. Did you ever notice that you live with the window blinds every day and they seem totally fine, but when you look at them through the eyes of "having company", they are disgustingly dusty.

Clean the blinds.

What are all those spots on the windows?

Clean the windows. Light floods the family room!

Oh my goodness, who has been touching the television cabinet after plowing a field?

Super scrub/dust all the wood furniture. From knees on the floor notice...

Why are all the walls exactly at cat/dog height stained? We bathe these animals regularly (Aiden swims daily!).

Squat walk around the house, cleaning every doorway. Notice floor corners dark - Hand wash all the corners and baseboards.

HOURS into this, after accepting that I am soon to be the target of health inspectors who will condemn my house, I decide to lock all bedroom doors and prevent anyone from wandering into the UNCLEAN ZONES.

Second, the meal: It's not as if I don't know that Martha or any Food Network show has 14 people in the background chopping, slicing, and dicing so it looks effortless on screen. I KNOW this. But then, I'm fooled looks so darn effortless! I've got the blender, the food processor and the mixer lined up like mechanical soldiers. I have great knives. Multiple cutting boards. Bowls. Scrapers. Trays. Every recipe has 2,700 ingredients that must be prepped before they are effortlessly put together. For example, a simple spinach salad:

Cook bacon, cool bacon, snip bacon into little pieces (tip: buy PRE-cooked bacon at Sam's)(NO, no bacon bits, they are gross!)
Cook eggs, cool eggs, chop eggs.
Dice onions.
Make Spinach salad dressing: Involves more diced onions, diced cilantro, multiple saucey type ingredients.

I'm 45 minutes into meal prep, and all I've got is a salad! And a mess...because if you can chop and dice and shell eggs and NOT get it all over the floor and countertop, I bow to your superiority.

Last thought: I remember LOVING my mother and grandmother's food. BUT how did they successfully cook without cilantro and extra virgin olive oil - because CILANTRO and EVOO are in EVERY STINKIN' RECIPE I try from the network or magazine. COME ON! Is there something magical about cilantro? Where did it come from? I don't even think it existed in 1975! Or, for that matter in 1995! It's new, but apparently absolutely ESSENTIAL to a well-flavored dish.

Oh, yeah...the party was great. I was the relaxed, consummate hostess. I only had to cook one dish (the risotto), and must have look intriguingly chef-like, because my method attracted a lot of appreciative ohh's and ahh's (or maybe after a hearty round of appetizers and mojitos, people were feeling an over-the-top alcoholic-induced generosity). I did manage to do the job without spraying my kitchen with spices and rice (pre-measured, pre-chopped, PRE PRE PRE PREPARED for assembly!).

It goes without saying that I was exhausted, but isn't that what good entertaining is all about?

Sitting in my clean house and planning to use the leftovers for dinner, I say, "Happy Sunday!"